The type of criticism that is intended to destroy a person's reputation and self-esteem. A kind of criticism where a person's name is dragged through the mud. Is there a specific word(s) for it?

closed as off-topic by FumbleFingers, tchrist Jan 15 '18 at 18:25

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  • 2
    An excoriation is a harsh criticism. But there are any number of related terms. Your example "victim" might be experiencing character assassination, for example, – FumbleFingers Jan 15 '18 at 17:15
  • If you're trying to destroy someone's reputation by dragging their name through the mud, that's typically termed character assassination. – Dan Bron Jan 15 '18 at 17:19
  • Mud-slinging (also solid) is actually used, at least in the UK {CED} – Edwin Ashworth Jan 15 '18 at 17:20
  • where the criticism is untrue, it can be "slander" – user85627 Jan 15 '18 at 17:28
  • I think the word you are looking for might be pillorying. This does not strictly mean criticism, but I do not think you are describing true criticism, but deliberate exposure to public ridicule and abuse - that is pillorying. – Lee Leon Jan 15 '18 at 18:28


The most common term for an attempt to destroy someone's reputation in a deliberate, conspicuous, focused and relentless way, by means of publically dragging their name through the mud is character assassination.

From WordNet:

Character Assassination

1. an attack intended to ruin someone's reputation

The Free Dictionary, likely sourcing WordNet, also gives the synonym blackwash (the opposite of whitewash).

AHD puts greater emphasis on the malicious nature of character assassination, as well as pointing out its common targets are public figures (politicians, celebrities, and other people in the public eye):

The malicious denunciation or slandering of another person, especially as part of an effort to ruin the reputation of a public figure.

A related term, as @Edwin Ashworth points out in the comments, is mudslinging. Here from ODO:


the use of insults and accusations, especially unjust ones, with the aim of damaging the reputation of an opponent.

Note the focus on "opponent": while both character assassination and mudslinging typically have public figures as their targets, mudslinging is usually reserved for scenarios where the attacker is a public figure as well (typically in an election or other contest between political opponents).

Again from ODO: A similar term is muck-raking:


the action of searching out and publicizing scandalous information about famous people in an underhanded way.

Note the difference from mud-slinging here: both occur in similar contexts, though mud-slinging is typically reserved for political battles, muck-raking can also apply to tabloids and other gossip mongering, but muck-raking usually involves exposing facts which are damaging to the target. The metaphor is similar to "digging up dirt".


Which brings us to an important caveat with both mud-slinging and character assassination: both typically connote slander, that is, part of the negative material being flogged is fabricated, or at least potentially so.

That is, the attacker is less concerned with the veracity of his defamations than on whether they're effective. So it's hard to use character assassination or mud-slinging if you want to communicate that while the attack is malicious, it is not necessarily untrue.

If that doesn't suit your need, you may consider other words for extreme or severe criticism, such as the excoriation that FumbleFingers offered in the comments.

From Vocabulary.com:


An excoriation is a harsh criticism. If your senior prank involves releasing a flock of chickens into the halls of your high school, you're practically asking for an excoriation from the principal.


I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Excoriate. It seems efficient and effective.

My only contribution is "Withering criticism." This describes the effect on the victim as a plant dying under the assault.

  • Welcome to EL&U. Thanks for your answer. Please consider adding references to support the words you're suggesting. – Rupert Morrish Jan 15 '18 at 19:23

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